China, US to pressure NK

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2016/9/21 0:13:39

Pyongyang conducts new rocket engine test

In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency on Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects the ground jet test of the high-power engine of a carrier rocket for the geo-stationary satellite at the Sohae Space Center in North Korea. Photo: AFP

China and the US have agreed to step up efforts to pressure North Korea into abandoning its nuclear weapons program, even as Pyongyang conducted another test on a new rocket engine on Tuesday.

Eleven days after the fifth nuclear test, its most powerful one so far, North Korea on Tuesday announced that it conducted a "successful" ground test of a new rocket engine to launch satellites. The country's leader, Kim Jong-un, urged scientists and engineers to make preparations for a satellite launch as soon as possible, Pyongyang-based Korean Central News Agency reported.

"The frequent tests show that past sanctions cannot deter North Korea's nuclear weapons and long range missile development. China may need to impose new sanctions to deliver a tough message to North Korea," Lü Chao, a research fellow on North Korea at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and US President Barack Obama agreed on Monday in New York to increase cooperation in the United Nations Security Council and in law-enforcement channels after North Korea's fifth nuclear test, the White House said.

In March 2016, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2270, which imposes the toughest sanctions against North Korea so far. 

"In the old sanctions, countries could search North Korea's cargo ships and aircraft and detain crew members and ships once they spot the embargoed materials, but overland transportation to North Korea was not included in the sanctions. This time, the US might ask China to compromise on this point," Zhang Liangui, a professor on Korean Peninsula issues at the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, told the Global Times. 

However, the sanctions may only make North Korea feel hurt but won't effectively stop its nuclear program, analysts said.

"North Korea started to build nuclear facilities in the 1960s, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was able to collect nuclear materials and recruit experts from post-Soviet states. North Korea doesn't need technology or resource support from outside to conduct its nuclear program. The sanctions are not an effective solution," said Lü.

Delicate choices

During his meeting with Obama, Li said China expects all relevant parties to refrain from any actions that may escalate tensions, and opposes the US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Lü stressed that if the US refuses to talk to North Korea, current measures such as the THAAD deployment, joint US-South Korean military drills and economic sanctions will only provoke North Korea.

Foreign ministers of the US, Japan and South Korea released a joint statement on Monday reaffirming that they remain open to credible and authentic talks aimed at the full and verifiable denuclearization of North Korea, and Washington said it is willing to negotiate with Pyongyang if it commits to denuclearization, Reuters reported.

Unfortunately, North Korea is unwilling to negotiate on this at present, Zhang said.

Zhang stressed that China's sanctions could be very effective if the country cuts all ties with North Korea, but this would be even more risky than a military attack, because it could force North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons but also cause the collapse of a nuclear-armed state, and this is highly unpredictable and dangerous for the region.

Some non-State-run Chinese companies continue to do business with North Korea, which violates the Chinese government's regulations and the UN resolution. So further sanctions will focus on this problem, Zhang said.

The Dong-A Ilbo newspaper reported that 19 US senators sent a joint letter to Obama urging his administration to expand sanctions on North Korea, and to impose a secondary boycott (sanctions against a third party) on Chinese companies and banks, since "the country is reluctant to take action against Pyongyang."

Lü stressed that although China is responsible for controlling its own companies, it doesn't mean the US and South Korea can unilaterally expand sanctions to Chinese firms. "This is the irresponsible act of hegemony," he said.

Posted in: Diplomacy

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